Posted by: bluesyemre | September 17, 2021

Communications to prepare for the 2021-22 academic year

As students return to campus for the 2021–22 academic year, it will be critical for universities to communicate effectively with students and local communities. Although Covid-19 restrictions are lifting, the public health situation remains unpredictable. 

University communications will play a critical role in making sure:

  • Students understand what the university experience will look like in 2021–22 (including in different public health scenarios).
  • Students know what support is available to them before they return to campus and know how to access that support. 
  • Students are aware of the behaviour that is expected of them to ensure responsible and respectful behaviour.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and know how t to get a Covid-19 vaccine. 
  • Students are given clear advice on any ongoing asymptomatic testing they need to do. 
  • Local communities are reassured about students returning to campus.

About this checklist 

This checklist can be used by universities to help identify actions before the new academic year. The checklist can be adapted to individual settings and contexts. It can also be used alongside the examples of different university approaches.

The checklist and examples cover student-focused communications and communications to the wider community. A staff communications checklist is being developed by UCEA.

Checklist: Pre-arrival communications

Safety on campus

  • Provide reassurance on what measures the university will be undertaking to keep the university community safe. 
  • Ensure students who are new or returning to campus understand whether the university will be providing hand sanitiser, cleaning products for communal spaces and where/when face coverings may be required etc.
  • Reassure students on safety measures and cleaning protocols in university accommodation. 

Expectations of students’ behaviour

  • Develop communications assets which reinforce core behavioural expectations on campus such as continuing to behave responsibly, respecting individual choice, the university’s approach to face coverings.
  • Develop communications assets which reinforce core behavioural expectations in the community eg, in local hospitality settings, on public transport.
  • Signpost students to relevant university codes of conduct and charters

Further resources available: Our briefing: Covid-safe behaviours and returning to campus (April 2021)

Information on student experience

  • Set out how teaching and learning will be delivered and how it may change if there is a shift in the public health situation.
  • Provide clear information on the wider student experience and how it may change if there is a shift in the public health situation, for example Students Union activities, freshers’ week.

Student welfare

  • Provide clear and prominent information on the student support available to new and returning students including on:
    • mental health support available
    • hardship support and how to apply
    • how any students needing to self-isolate in 2021–22 will be looked after
    • initiatives to address digital poverty and how to access them

Further resources available: Our self-isolation checklist (updated March 2021)

International

  • Ensure there are clear communications to international students on their expected learning experience, including for those unable to travel to the UK for the start of the academic year.
  • Make sure that students understand the current travel restrictions in place for entry to the UK and that these are subject to change and should be checked regularly.
  • Provide clear information to students travelling from red list countries on any quarantine arrangements and what support will be available for those in managed quarantine facilities.
  • Provide clear information to students travelling from amber list countries on whether they will be required to self-isolate, whether any exemptions are relevant to them and what support will be available to those needing to self-isolate
  • Ensure international students have access to clear information on vaccinations which explains their eligibility and how to get the Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Consider how communications to international students can provide reassurance on the university’s health and safety measures. 
  • Signpost international students to clear information on the wellbeing support in place including mental health support, student services, health services and financial hardship.
  • Provide clear information to outward mobility students on how to ensure they understand and comply with Covid-19 regulations during their period of time overseas

Further resources available: 

Preparing for university life

  • Develop information for students starting university in the autumn which highlights steps they can take to prepare for beginning university and the support available to help them transition to higher education smoothly.

Further resources available: Our case studies: Support for new students starting university in autumn 2021 (June 2021)

Vaccination

  • Strongly encourage students to get vaccinated without delay. 
  • Provide advice to students on getting vaccinated locally including making clear that GP registration is not a prerequisite for getting vaccinated.
  • Promote local pop-up sites or vaccine centres. including information about their locations and how to access them. 
  • Ensure information on vaccines includes useful information  for international students. 
  • Signpost to official vaccination information on NHS.UK 
  • Make sure students have access to resources designed to address any hesitancy of getting the vaccine and counter misinformation.
  • Consider how information on Covid-19 vaccines can be disseminated to students alongside information on other non-Covid vaccines that they should consider having.
  • Be mindful of other public health diseases such as Meningitis that occur around the start of term and ensure messaging on the wider public health challenges mentions these.
     

Further resources available:

Testing

Provide clear information to students on asymptomatic testing including any expectations to test before travel, test on arrival and test at regular intervals during term time.

Working with students’ unions

  • Explore how the students’ union can co-produce, amplify and reinforce key messages to students. 
  • Identify other clubs, societies and groups to reach out to students and work with them.

Reassuring local communities

  • Engage with local public health to explore how core messages and communications can be aligned and/or joined up to reassure students and local communities.
  • Explore with other universities in the town or city any opportunities to work together on messaging for the local community on the return of students to campus eg, joint letters or securing local media coverage.

Examples from universities

We have pulled together a collection of case studies of how universities are developing communications to help students and local communities prepare for the start of term. 

Behavioural expectations

York St John University is carrying out a “Keep it kind on campus” campaign which will promote key expectations around student behaviour, foster mutual respect, and promote collective responsibility.

Imperial College London’s website highlights that despite the lifting of restrictions, the spirit of individual responsibility and respect for others continues. The website sets out expectations on students on face coverings, testing and adhering to local measures which may differ between departments based on specific risk assessments.

University of Gloucestershire’s Student Charter includes a section on Covid-19 which includes clear commitments from the university and students’ union and expectations on students.

In 2020–21 the University of the Creative Arts published a Covid-19 addendum to its student code of conduct.

Health and safety

Newcastle University has published detailed information on How we’re keeping you safe during Covid-19 including FAQs on the 2021–22 experience

In 2020, University of the Arts, London produced a Keeping you safe in halls video on keeping students safe in halls which offered easy to understand explainers on how halls were being kept safe.

Imperial College London has developed general advice on keeping safe on campus including the university’s approach to face coverings, details of its return to campus framework and other health and safety measures. Links to relevant information can all be found from one central web page. The university has also published information for those in university accommodation on what to expect in 2021–22 covering cleaning protocols, households, self-isolation and guests.

Clear information on the student experience

Imperial College London has published information for students outlining how its student experience may alter if there are changes in the public health situation. The information covers three scenarios: minimal restrictions, partial restrictions, and full Covid-19 restrictions (lockdown). The information published includes details of the academic experience and community experience under each scenario.

The University of Nottingham has developed clear website content outlining what students can expect in the 2021–22 academic year.

University of the Arts, London has published a Coronavirus update on 2021/22 academic year which sets out the university’s approach to teaching and learning, signposts to the university’s Community Pledge and confirms that students will be given a health and safety briefing at the start of the new academic year.

Nottingham Trent University has published a message from the vice-chancellor to students looking ahead to term one of the 2021/22 academic year.

Reinforcing local public health messaging

Coventry University has regularly retweeted key public health messages from Coventry City Council on staying safe in hospitality venues and use of face coverings.

Joint messaging to provide community reassurance

In 2020, the vice-chancellors of the University of Warwick and Coventry University issued a joint statement to the local community on the return of students to campus. The statement shared the measures that the universities were putting in place on their campuses and in the wider community and aimed to provide reassurance to the local community in advance of the new academic year.

Vaccination messages

Coventry University has been promoting video clips of students who have just been vaccinated at the university medical centre

The University of Nottingham is using strong messaging to reinforce the need for students to get vaccinates – “vaccinate to keep our community safe”, “vaccinate to study safely”, “vaccinate to play sports safely”. The university has brought together detailed vaccine information including Q&As and directions to local vaccination sites.

The University of Nottingham has also led on a collaborative initiative between the University of Nottingham, University of Southampton and King’s College London to establish COVIDVAXfacts.info to address vaccine concerns and hesitancy. The site includes information and evidence from independent experts working in immunology, vaccination and Covid-19. Students are signposted to the site from the University of Nottingham website. 

The University of Sunderland Students’ Union is promoting videos about vaccinations on social media and the students’ union’s website.

The University of Manchester has been regularly retweeting local vaccination site information from Manchester Health and Care Commissioning (MHCC). The university has also been using university experts to explain how vaccination hesitancy might be addressed. Information on vaccinations is also featured on the homepage of the students’ news site.

University of Sussex has published a clear position on vaccinations. It states that the university is in favour of vaccinations as an effective means of protecting public and individual health and strongly encourages all members of the university who are able to do so, to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and other diseases.

Student welfare

Sheffield Hallam University’s Welcome 2021 page includes a wide range of information for students from getting vaccinated to study skills training to booking welcome week events and learning about available support services.

The University of Brighton has published resources for students on Managing fears and anxiety around Coronavirus

Canterbury Christ Church University’s Welcome Hub includes links to different elements of the student experience including student support and tailored information for different cohorts.  

University of Wolverhampton has developed Get Set resources to provide new students with as much support as possible before they start their university journey. It includes Zoom events introducing students to aspects of university life and available support services.

https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-research/publications/checklist-communications-prepare-2021-22


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